Feedlot Forum provides relevancy and value for northwest Iowa area cattle feeders


Black steer standing behind wire fence.


AMES Iowa  — More than 20 years ago, a northwest Iowa county cattlemen's group worked with Iowa State University extension beef specialist Beth Doran to organize a feedlot-focused program. The area is home to the feedlot industry in Iowa with more than 950,000 head of cattle on feed in 17 northwestern counties. This local group wanted to bring relevant and timely information and education to themselves and their peers, and the now-annual Feedlot Forum was born.

Since its inception in 2004, each year's program is planned with input from cattlemen's association representatives, producers, and sponsors. According to Doran, this is why Feedlot Forum is an ongoing success.

"It truly is a collaborative effort, which has contributed to the longevity of the forum," she said. "Organizers help implement the program – greeting sponsors, registering participants, working with press and legislative representatives, setting up/tearing down, serving the steak dinner/refreshments, and moderating/invocation."

Feedlot Forum is not a one-person program, Doran said. It takes all the board members and event sponsors to pull it off successfully and professionally. Thanks to the sponsors, the registration fee has remained at $25 per person and this includes a steak dinner.

Organizers understand the need to involve future cattle leaders, too, and offer a reduced registration fee of $10 per person to students. Eight students from Dordt University and Iowa Lakes Community College attended this this year’s Forum.

The beef producers and allied industry professionals on the local boards represent a wealth of experience in cattle feeding starting at the grassroots level, and are key to the program's longevity, Doran said.

"The twenty-one-year success of Feedlot Forum depends on timely identification of pressing issues for the beef feedlot industry," she said. "Some of the issues covered in past programs are BSE, County of Origin Labeling, environmental compliance, ag policy, consumer trends, beef checkoff, corn coproducts, and new developments in marketing."

The 2024 agenda was no exception, with speakers covering nutrition for beef on dairy calves and the packer perspective on their carcass quality, new FDA regulations on implants, 2024 Farm Bill update, market transparency, and the prospect of industry expansion. Price discovery is not a new topic, but still high on producers' interest list.

Through the years, Feedlot Forum has remained a draw for area beef producers. This year's inclement weather with below-zero wind chill put a slight damper on expected attendance. Still, 112 people from three states (including 11 Iowa counties) attended, and information packets were mailed to 18 who could not attend. Four cattle organizations and 19 businesses sponsored the 2024 event.

"Feedlot Forum makes it possible for the local beef producer to be involved with and learn about what's happening at the state, national and international levels in the industry," Doran said. "This connection is what makes it a must-attend event."


The Iowa Beef Center at Iowa State University was established in 1996 with the goal of supporting the growth and vitality of the state’s beef cattle industry. It comprises faculty and staff from Iowa State University Extension and Outreach, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and College of Veterinary Medicine, and works to develop and deliver the latest research-based information regarding the beef cattle industry. For more information about IBC, visit www.iowabeefcenter.org.

Beth Doran, ISU Extension and Outreach beef specialist, 712-737-4230, doranb@iastate.edu


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